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Another brick in the wall

The W. and Ellen Lovefest

Photo: Taelar Pollmann ⋅ The Sentry

America’s (arguably) favorite daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres attracted controversy in recent weeks after being photographed with former President George W. Bush.

Bush isn’t just any ex-president. Bush is the man who called for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and incorporated the proposal in his 2004 campaign platform.

Maybe it’s not so shocking that DeGeneres doesn’t mind hanging out with Bush. Despite her outspokenness on LGBTQ acceptance, DeGeneres has repeatedly said some variation of “I’m not very political” on her talk show.

Maybe it’s also not so shocking that the two enjoy each other’s company. As two of the most famous people in the country who’ve both faced their share of public scrutiny, maybe they relate to each other’s struggles—though facing backlash for coming out as gay is entirely different than facing backlash for policy decisions that affected the lives of millions of people.

I’m not interested in judging DeGeneres for who she chooses to hang out with. If she wants to hang out with Bush in her private time, if that somehow brings her joy, that’s her business.

What’s more problematic is DeGeneres’ response to the controversy, stating, “I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay.”

As a stereotypically liberal graduate student, I have my share of conservative family members and friends from high school that are still part of my life, even if we all have an unspoken agreement to just not talk about politics.

But to equate my conservative great-aunt to a former president of the United States is irresponsible. I’m not suggesting that individual voters shouldn’t take responsibility for their decisions. But it’s absurd to compare private citizens to someone whose policies harmed many people, including the thousands of New Orleans residents affected by Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. soldiers and their families affected by the Iraq War, as well as the millions of people living in Iraq.

Bush can be Ellen’s friend, but she can’t dismiss his consequential role in shaping the fate of our country.

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